Essence and spirit of Hajj

February 7, 2003 Friday Zul Hijjah 5,1423

Essence & spirit of Hajj

By Sirajuddin Aziz

HAZRAT Ibrahim made a moving supplication to Almighty Allah, O' my Lord! Bestow wisdom on me, and join me with the righteous; grant me an honourable mention on the tongue of truth, among the latest generations (19:83-84). Haj, one of the pillars of Islam, is indeed a manifestation of the acceptance of Hazrat Ibrahim's prayers. Haj and its rites are a continuum of the Abrahamic traditions. This Sunnat-i-Ibrahimi is an integral part of Islam.

The Sunnat of Prophet Hazrat Ibrahim (pbuh), is also enjoined upon Muslims in the Holy Quran. In fact, historical data suggests that the concept of Haj existed even before the time of Hazrat Ibrahim. But the main features of Haj as they existed at the advent of Islam were entirely based on the authority of Abraham. Hazrat Ibrahim was Divinely ordained not only to rebuild the Kaaba but also to purify it from all traces of idolatry, and to institute Haj. And when we assigned to Abraham the place of the House, Saying, Do not set up ought with me, and purify My House for those who make the circuit, and who stand to pray and who bow and prostrate themselves. And proclaim among men, the Haj... (22:26-27).

The site of Makkah granted to Hazrat Ibrahim and Hazrat Ismail was pure. Following them, the fundamental change brought about was the placing of idols at all the significant places of Haj. The Kaaba had 360 idols, all of which were thrown out at the conquest of Makkah.

Haj is obligatory on every adult, only once in his life time. ...Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah, those who can afford the journey... (III:97). The ability to undertake a journey can be constrained by two major factors i.e. physical disability or financial disability. Allah does not wish to burden any soul and therefore any individual falling in above category may not perform Haj and there is no consequential disobedience or sin.

In Surah Al-Baqra, from Ayat 196 to 203, the various rites of Haj are described for the pilgrims to complete. The principal rites are: (i) wearing of the Ehram, from certain fixed points on all roads leading to Makkah. As soon as the Ehram is adorned by the pilgrim, the prohibitive conditions come into operation and the pilgrim is now committed to the worship of Allah (ii) circumambulation of the Holy Kaaba seven times, typifying activity by the kissing of Hajre Aswad (iii) a short prayer at the station of Hazrat Ibrahim (2:215) and then running between the hills of Mt. Safa and Mt. Marwa (2:158), symbolizing the patience and perseverance of Hazrat Hajra (iv) listening to the great sermon of Haj (v) visit to the valley of Mina and the hill of Arafat, where all pilgrims from noon to sunset stand on their feet and invoke blessings of Almighty. In between there is stay at Muzdalifah (vi) the 10th Zil Haj, the Eid day sacrifice of animal is performed in the valley of Mina.

Here we come, O' Allah, here come! Here we come. No partner have you. Here we come! Praise indeed, and blessings, are yours the Kingdom too. No partner have you.

With this Talbiyah, on their lips, chanting incessantly with fervour and enthusiasm, Muslims clad in two pieces of coarse white cloth, converge to they holy city of Makkah from across the globe.

The National Geographic' in its November 1978 issue, carried an article by Dr. Muhammad Abdul Rauf, Director, Islamic Centre, Washington, where he remarks, on this unusual emotional drive in Muslims, what is it that impels the Muslims to make this journey involving great sacrifice, hardship and cost, and yet doing so ardently and lovingly? He then goes on to answer himself and quite aptly, we each carry within our hearts a divine element. Torn from the womb of existence and ushered, crying into this world, we spend all our energies in the pursuit of a state of happiness. This restless, incessant drive is no more than that divine element within us seeking its origin.

The purpose of Haj is to attain spiritual loftiness. ...And take a provision, with you, for the journey. But the best of provisions is right conduct... (2:197). Pilgrims are expected not to resort to begging, hence they must carry or have means of provisions. But in the above verse, Allah almost immediately reminds us to move from physical to spiritual. We all need provision for the final journey and the best of spiritual provision is right conduct, which is same, as the fear of Allah.'

Haj, is the best leveller of all distinctions of class, colour, creed, race, sect and origins. All Pilgrims are dressed alike, no one is better than the other, in the physical sense and they have only one chant, Labbaik, Allah Umma, Labbaik... Death levels all. But Haj, allows a Muslim, to experience in his life time, what levelling is? A pilgrim travelling first class or on an upper deck and a pilgrim travelling in tourist class or lower deck are all the same in sight of Allah. Only the most righteous amongst them has a higher station and honour and the worldly vulgar trappings of class, colour, etc., become more an embarrassment: a dilution to the high spiritual value of Haj.

Between the 8th, 9th and 10th of Ziaul Hajjah, all Haj rites are performed by the pilgrims. the Hajis leave the gates of Makkah with prayers, repentant and devoted to the service of Allah, we now return home and bow in humility and gratitude to Him. Each pilgrim's heart thunders with prayers, O! Allah let not this be the last time we pray before the Kaaba.

In surah Al-Baqra (2:125) the Holy Quran states, Remember We made the House, a place of Assembly for men and a place of safety... Later in the same verse, We covenanted with Ibrahim and Ismail that they should sanctify My House... It therefore, establishes that the Kaaba stood as a building even before Ibrahim and that he along with his son Ismail rebuilt it, and remember Ibrahim and Ismail raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): Our Lord accept (this service) from us... (2:127).

In fact another verse makes it abundantly clear that the Kaaba was already there when Ibrahim left Ismail in the wilderness of Arabia, under a Divine commandment, 0, our Lord! I have settled a part of my off-spring in a valley unproductive of fruit near thy sacred House (14:37).

Islam was the religion of Ibrahim. His status is described thus: him we chose and rendered pure in this world; and he will be in the Hereafter, in the ranks of the Righteous (2:130). The legacy he left for his progeny was to uphold the doctrine of monotheism. His, unflinching faith in Allah is mentioned in Surah Baqr, Ayat 131, Behold! his Lord said to him, Bow, (thy will to me): He said, I bow (my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the universe.

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